I’ve received many wonderful reviews for my latest crime thriller Dark Mind and a few comments about one of the scenes in the beginning of the book. In Chapter Three, my heroine has a physical confrontation with a couple of slave traders that kidnapped a little girl. There’s quite a bit of action and suspense to set the stage for the rest of the story. To make a long story short, without any spoilers of course, I used the word catawampus to describe a decrepit and uneven porch.
One of the biggest challenges I’m faced with when I’m writing a book is the use of redundant words and describing the same types of the things in the same way. How boring! I know that’s what the Thesaurus is for, but many times the words found sound a bit contrived and don’t really describe exactly what I’m trying to say. There are so many great words in our language.
Why not make better use of descriptive words?
I pay attention to words and sayings spoken all around me, whether I’m in the grocery store or at a social engagement. Sometimes you can pick out certain words from a particular generation of people: cool, epic, holy cow, awesome, shenanigan, spiffy, etc. And sometimes, you’ll find that a certain word is back in style again.
As I wrote the action scene in Dark Mind, I had just heard someone use the words catawampus and wonky. I mindfully filed these very descriptive words in the back of my mind when I heard them, so when I was writing about this dilapidated porch deep in the jungle of Kauai – catawampus just seemed to fit.
I think there are so many wonderful, descriptive words that rarely get used in novels. That’s not to say that words like catawampus and shenanigans should always be used when creating a fiction novel, but it gives the writer something to think about when creating a story.
Fun, less used words are especially helpful if you’re creating an unusual character. Try using some funny sayings that will make them stand out.
When using interesting, descriptive words not used on a regular basis, I follow these simple rules:
- Use a fun, descriptive word only if it really fits the scene and adds another level of description and enjoyment for the reader.
- Don’t use a particular word if it stops the reader dead in their tracks. It can be distracting or even annoying if the word makes a reader go “huh?”
- Don’t bombard your book with these words, less is definitely more. Be sure not to use the same word again, once is enough.
I found a list of some funny words. Here’s a writer’s dozen words to ponder:
Abibliophobia The fear of running out of reading material.
Billingsgate Loud, raucous profanity.
Cockalorum A small, haughty man.
Cockamamie Absurd, outlandish.
Doozy Something really great.
Eructation A burp, belch.
La-di-da An interjection indicating that something is pretentious.
Malarkey Nonsense, balderdash.
Namby-pamby Weak, with no backbone.
Ornery Mean, nasty, grumpy.
Skedaddle To hurry somewhere.
Vomitory An exit or outlet.
What are some funny words you’ve read or written?
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